The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) has started cleaning up an unknown amount of diesel in Makueni County which spilled from a punctured section of the new Sh48 billion Mombasa-Nairobi oil pipeline.
It is not clear for how long the new pipeline had been leaking before the spillage was detected three weeks ago.
The affected area is tucked in a forested area at the source of the seasonal River Kiboko.
“We did not expect a leak on this pipeline since it is only one year old. This was an accident. We suspect that the punctured spot was weakened by a boulder dropped by an excavator during the laying of the pipeline,” acting KPC managing director Hudson Andambi said on Monday.
KPC technicians have since repaired the pipeline but multiple trenches sunk around the affected area show that the underground water in the area has been contaminated with oil, to the chagrin of local water users and environmentalists.
“Be assured that no more oil will percolate because we have sealed the pipeline. We have embarked on establishing the extent of the leakage and that is why we have sunk the inspection trenches. A contractor will soon come over to map the extent of the oil spillage and the concentration of the oil in the soil and the water sources using specialised technology. We shall then remove all the contaminated soil to Makindu pump station because we don’t want it to remain there to continue causing more trouble,” said Mr Andambi.
The KPC boss, who was accompanied by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr and Makindu MCA Alfred Kituku, sought to allay fears by locals that the spilled oil had affected shallow wells in the area and the springs that form River Kiboko
The chairman of Kiboko Water Resource Users Association, Mr Wilson Munguti, had pressed the KPC boss to declare the water sources in the area unsafe.
Shortly after the spillage was detected, the Water Resources Authority ordered KPC to clean up the area before the oil contaminated the springs and the environment.
"You are required to clean up the oil spill area within the Kiboko springs water catchment and remove the soil containing the oil product to safer grounds as chances are that they may contaminate the nearby water sources and the indigenous vegetation within the catchment when it rains," the authority told KPC on April 8 in a letter by Mr John Njuguna, the area water officer.
But the move by KPC did not erase doubts on the integrity of the restoration process among locals with Mr Kilonzo Jnr demanding that the process be spearheaded by the National Environment Management Authority together with the county government.
Three years ago, there was another oil spillage in Thange River, about 45 kilometres South of Kiboko.
Whereas compensation for those affected by the spillage is underway, KPC has not succeeded in restoring the affected area.